|Publication number||US6928260 B2|
|Application number||US 09/829,830|
|Publication date||Aug 9, 2005|
|Filing date||Apr 10, 2001|
|Priority date||Apr 10, 2001|
|Also published as||US20020146674|
|Publication number||09829830, 829830, US 6928260 B2, US 6928260B2, US-B2-6928260, US6928260 B2, US6928260B2|
|Inventors||Michael J. Betz, William Ganza, Christopher Nalesnik|
|Original Assignee||Childcare Education Institute, Llc|
|Export Citation||BiBTeX, EndNote, RefMan|
|Patent Citations (43), Non-Patent Citations (1), Referenced by (33), Classifications (6), Legal Events (9)|
|External Links: USPTO, USPTO Assignment, Espacenet|
This invention relates to a system and method for education, and, in particular to an online education system and method for use over a network.
Computerized learning technologies have been evolving and gaining popularity over the last several decades, generally computer learning devices and techniques developed in step with the development of computer and related technology. Consider, for example, the system of U.S. Pat. No. 4,798,453, Spiece. This system is a stand-alone computer that presents prerecorded lessons to the student, and allows the student to take tests using the computer. The application for the Spiece patent was filed in 1983, a time in which personal computers were relatively new to the world, and in which video discs were used to present movies and the like. Hence, Spiece uses video discs and a personal computer in its education system.
As telecommunications technology developed, more interactive learning systems began to develop to permit lecturers to present lessons and/or materials to students located in remote locations. U.S. Pat. No. 4,682,957, Young, for example, allows a presenter at one location to control the presentation to students at remote locations. The control is achieved by the use of control signals sent over communications lines. Other “live” interactive education systems include those of U.S. Pat. No. 4,785,472, Shapiro; U.S. Pat. No. 5,295,836, Ryu et al.; U.S. Pat. No. 5,303,042, Lewis et al.; and U.S. Pat. No. 5,823,788, Lemelson et al.
With the availability of the Internet, many “distance learning” systems have been put into place, and distance learning may, in fact, be one of the fastest growing applications of communications technology. Many educational institutions, including but not limited to colleges and universities, are instituting learning programs over the Internet. Internet training can be made available to students at any time in any location. Students no longer need to travel to specific classroom sites. Thus, the cost of delivery of such online education systems is significantly less than the cost of traditional classroom education. A teaching institution no longer needs a building to house the classroom. If teachers are required, they need only make their lecture once, and that lecture can be recorded, stored, and used over and over again, if appropriate. Materials can be developed for use with a course that are used over and over again. In fact, it may be easier to continue to improve the “class” in an online application due to the fact that the class can be reviewed by appropriate authorities, measurements can be put into place to test the effectiveness of the class, and consistency is easier to achieve due to the use of electronic means.
Various governments have recognized the importance of distance learning in continuing to educate their citizens. The Congress of the United States, for example, formed a Web-based Education Commission to evaluate and make recommendations about education over the Internet. The Commission stated, “The question is no longer if the Internet can be used to transform learning in new and powerful ways. The Commission has found that it can . . . Nor is the question, ‘Should we invest the time, the energy and the money defining and shaping new learning opportunity?’ The commission believes we should.” Panel urges expansion of online education, “The Indianapolis Star”, Dec. 20, 2000, page A7. The Commission asked for increased federal research in online education to determine the best use of computers in learning, and asked that there be “changes in federal regulations that limit financial aid for students who take college courses over the Web. A growing number of students, particularly older, nontraditional ones, are taking courses online.” Id.
One of the challenges in delivery of training via the Internet is to insure delivery of the content in the context of a certain time frame. In other words, how does the educator insure that the student has proceeded through the course without skipping or skimming the content presented? How does the educator ensure that the student attended the course for the requisite time? Formal education and many industries require that students log a certain number of hours of training to be considered to have completed the course, or to be certified or licensed to practice. In a traditional classroom setting, for example, the student must attend a specified number of class hours. If the student misses too many hours of class, they may have to withdraw from the course or receive an “incomplete grade”, for example.
One of the growing areas of education relates to continuing professional education. Forty-six states have requirements for continuing education of their teachers. Id. States have requirements that lawyers, accountants, and other professionals continue to take courses to continue to be admitted to practice his/her profession in that state. Many states require certified child care providers to have a certain number of qualified personnel on their staff, with the qualification for such personnel including a specified number of hours of initial and/or continuing education, also referred to as pre-service and/or in-service training, respectively. While the requirements regarding type of education, the type of courses, the number of hours of training, and the base time for completing the specified number of hours may vary across states and for different professions or occupations, key to most continuing education requirements is the need to “attend” classes, often for a specified number of hours.
Because it is difficult to ensure that a student has “attended” remote education class, many states or regulatory authorities have not permitted training by remote sources to qualify for satisfaction of the requirements for initial and/or continuing education classes. Instead, students are often only permitted to audit a course provided online without the grant of credit for the course. The reason for this course credit limitation is because there generally is no mechanism for making certain that the student did not skip or skim through the lesson, or did not simply start the lesson and walk away. Consider, for example, the child care education sites of Learning Options and ECE Training, or the technical training sites of Element K, LLC and Click2Learn, Inc. These systems present textual and/or graphic slides through which the student can advance at their own pace. The educator does not control the pace at which the student takes the course, and, therefore, the educator cannot be assured that the student attends the course for a requisite minimum time frame. While the prior art systems may test the student based on material presented, a student could, conceivably, just guess at the answers and be deemed to have successfully completed the course. An educator may want to make certain that a student earns his/her grades by completing a required minimum time attendance (minimum number of hours). Thus, it is desired to provide an online education system and method which ensures that the student “attended” the class for a desired time. Such a system and method would result in more accurate teaching of student outcomes for the course, greater confidence in the integrity of the course, and the educator being willing to accept a certificate of completion or the course meeting requirements, and subsequently granting course credit.
The immediacy of the Internet gives rise to another issue. It is not uncommon for a student to procrastinate in completing a course. Thus, if a student is required to take continuing professional education courses during a certain base time period, the student may wait to the last possible moment within that base time period to take the course. For example, if child care providers are required to complete a certain number of continuing education credits before the end of the calendar year, it is not uncommon for a student to wait until late December to fulfill those obligations. Because the credits are often necessary for certification, continued employment, and continued operation of the child care center, it is important that the completion of the course(s) by the student, even if at the last possible moment, be acknowledged. Therefore, it is desired to provide an online system and method for immediate acknowledgement of completion of the course, particularly, if a regulating body may require proof of such completion.
The present invention is a system and method for online education. In one embodiment, the online education system includes an educator provider system, at least one student system, and a network connected to the educator provider system and the at least one student system for bidirectional communication therebetweeen. The educator provider system is likely to be operated by an educational institution which offers lessons (also referred to herein as courses), or by a third party who makes such lessons available over the network for the benefit of one or more educational institutions. Each lesson transmitted by the educator provider system to the at least one student system is interactive, and includes at least one audio file. The pace of the presentation of the lesson to a student at the at least one student system is controlled by an audio controlling mechanism based on the received audio file. The audio file maybe instructional in addition to being used to control the pace of the lesson and insure attendance of the course for a minimum time period.
In one embodiment, the network comprises the Internet, and each student system comprises a computing unit having a browser operable thereon. Working in conjunction with the browser is a browser compatible plug-in for audio streaming. In another embodiment, the audio streaming capability is included in the browser. The student is not permitted to advance during the time that the audio file is “played” by the plug-in and/or browser. In this manner, the rate of advancement of the educational material presented to the student is controlled by the system.
In one embodiment, each lesson comprises a plurality of presentations. Each presentation has associated therewith at least one audio file. The student is prohibited from advancing forward from one presentation to the next by the audio controlling means. Specifically, the audio file(s) associated with the presentation must be completely played at the student system before the student can advance to the next presentation. In this manner, the pace of the presentation of the lesson to the student at the student system is controlled as is the rate of advancement through each presentation of the lesson. The student must “attend” the lesson for at least a specified amount of time. Such an audio controlling mechanism thus ensures that the student has participated in the lesson for at least the minimum time represented by the collective time required to play each of the audio files associated with each of the presentations of the lesson.
In another embodiment, a video file and video controlling means issued to control the pace of the lesson and advancement through the lesson. Alternately, a combination of audio and video files may be used to control the pace and advancement.
In yet another embodiment of the present invention, the educator provider system includes the ability to generate a lesson completion record upon completion of a lesson by a student at one of the at least one student systems connected to the network. Such a lesson completion record may comprise a certificate of completion that the student may store and print for acknowledgement of completion of the course. If the lesson includes tests (quizzes, questions, etc.), the educator provider system can qualify the record or certificate based on the number or percentage of correct/incorrect answers. In such instances, a record or certificate may not be generated if the student was not “successful” i.e., met the minimum requirements for the number or percentage of correct answers.
In still another embodiment of the present invention, the system includes an education authority system connected to the network. The education authority system may be operated by or for a governmental agency or professional organization charged with overseeing the completion of courses by certain classes of persons. For example, a state agency may be charged with ensuring that child care organizations maintain qualified personnel on their staff, with the qualifications for such personnel including completion of specific courses to become qualified, and/or completion of continuing education courses to remain certified.
The addition of the education authority system to the online education system of the present invention provides at least two additional benefits. First, all or a portion of the content of the lesson to be transmitted to student systems may be generated at the education authority system. The content generated by the education authority system may either be transmitted to the educator provider system for storage and subsequent transmittal to the student systems, and/or be accessed by the educator provider system when transmitting a lesson to a student system. In the latter scenario, the educator provider system acts as a conduit for the lesson content residing at the education authority system.
The second advantage of the addition of the education authority system is the fact that the lesson completion record may be transmitted by the educator provider system to the education authority system. In this manner, the education authority will be apprised of successful completion by a student in near real time. This timely notice may be particularly important where the student completes the course shortly before a deadline imposed by the education authority or appropriate regulating authority.
FIG. 4A and
FIG. 5A and
Referring now to
Education authority system 32 generally belongs to an organization having an interest in ensuring that students take the courses or lessons offered by the educator. An education authority may be a professional organization or governmental agency, for example. In a state in which child care providers are required by the state to take certain courses to become and/or remain certified to provide child care services in that state, the education authority is the governmental agency or contracted firm designated to oversee such certification. In another state, a state charged board of examiners oversees completion of continuing legal education requirements by lawyers. That board of examiners is an education authority. The education authority also could be comprised of multiple organizations cooperating in the provision of education or education accreditation, or to an entity owning or operating a number of educational centers.
Thus, online education system 20 permits an educator provider to present courses or lessons to students. With the use of network 34, such access may be from any location in which student systems 24, 26, 28, or 30 are located, and at any time. This general configuration of
Education authority system 32 is optional, as is explained in greater detail below. Courses and/or lessons, and any or all of the content thereof, may originate from education authority system 32, educator provider system 22, or another source involved in development of courses and/or lessons suitable for distance learning.
Each student system 24, 26, 28, and 30 may be of various configurations well known in the art. Fourth student system 30 is shown having processor 38, keyboard 40, monitor 42, and printer 44. Processor 38 manages communication with the network 34 and manages input and output from keyboard 40, monitor 42, and printer 44. Keyboard 40 is exemplary of an input device, serving as a means for a student to input information to student system 30. Other input devices, such as a mouse, are contemplated to be within the scope of the invention.
Monitor 42 serves as a visual display means to display the courses and/or lessons to a student using student system 30. Printer 44 serves as a means to display courses and/or lessons and to print lesson completion records and/or electronic certificates, as is explained in greater detail herein. Each student system 24, 26, 28, and 30 may comprise other devices known in the art for bidirectional communication over a network. For example, the use of a personal hand held device, such as a Palm™ Pilot™, a laptop computer, and a telephonic device, such as a telephone, are contemplated to be within the scope of the invention. Each student system 24, 26, 28, and 30 must be capable of receiving audio signals or files for reasons explained herein below.
Educator authority system 32 may be any system capable of communicating with network 34. Like educator provider system 22, it may comprise a server, keyboard, mouse, monitor, printer, etc., as is well known in the art.
Network 34 is of the type to permit bidirectional communication between educator provider system 22 and student systems 24, 26, 28, and 30. In one embodiment, network 34 comprises the global network known as the Internet. Network 34 may, however, comprise other network means permitting bidirectional communication, or combinations of such network means as are well known in the art. A local area network, wide area network, telecommunications wire and/or fiber networks, and satellite communications networks are just a few examples of alternate network means well known in the art and contemplated to be within the scope of the invention.
Before discussing the operation of online education system 20, the course and/or lesson taught through online education system 20 is worthy of discussion. As used herein below and in the claims, the term “lesson” refers generally to any instruction unit and/or combination of instructional units. Each instructional unit may comprise one or more presentations. Each presentation is a frame/page/screen of content presented to a student. A lesson may comprise text, graphics, videos, photographs, audio content or other content well known in the art, and any combination of one or more of these various types of content. A lesson can be generated in whole or in part by educator provider system 22, education authority system 32, and/or by any third party system, or by a combination of systems and sources. The term “course” is sometimes used in the following text, and is to be synonymous with “lesson”.
In the embodiment whose operation is described herein below, the content of the lesson illustrated was generated by a third party system and educator provider system 22. By means well known in the art, HTML pages were generated for the lesson, with the HTML pages containing all content except audio content. For each HTML page, which constitutes a “presentation” of the lesson, at least one audio file was generated and associated with at least one of the HTML pages. Such audio files are in a format readable at student systems 24, 26, 28, and 30 by use of a browser plug-in such as MACROMEDIAŽ SHOCKWAVEŽ by Macromedia, Inc.
The use of HTML and MACROMEDIAŽ SHOCKWAVEŽ is conducive to an environment where network 34 comprises the Internet, and where each student system 24, 26, 28, and 30 has a browser, such as Microsoft Corporation's INTERNET EXPLORERŽ or Netscape Corporation's NETSCAPE, residing thereon together with the MACROMEDIAŽ SHOCKWAVEŽ plug-in. With this configuration, each student system 24, 26, 28, and 30 is capable of receiving the lesson, allowing the student to interact with the lesson, and allowing the student to be in bidirectional communication with educator provider system 22.
It will be appreciated by those of skill in the art that the audio streaming capability may_be built into the browser, such as has been announced to be included in future versions of INTERNET EXPLORERŽ and NETSCAPEŽ. Regardless of the structure of the software and/or hardware operating on each student system 24, 26, 28, and 30, it is key that the software and/or hardware include the ability to read and play the audio file(s) associated with the pages of the lesson to serve as an audio controlling mechanism.
Referring now to
The login screen of
In the embodiment of
Referring now to
The general elements of the presentations of
Two types of status information are also displayed in the lesson screens of
Several buttons are provided for activation by a student at student system 30 during the lesson. Those buttons include left arrow button 68, LOGOUT button 70, HELP button 72, and FORWARD or right arrow button 74.
Left arrow button 68 and right arrow button 74 allow the student to move back to the previous screen page or forward to the next screen page, respectively. As will be explained in further detail herein, in this embodiment, left arrow button 68 remains activatable throughout the display of the page, while right arrow button 74 is only activatable upon completion of the presentation, both visual and auditory, of the presently displayed screen.
HELP button 72, activatable throughout the display of the page, if activated by the student, takes the student to help pages, as is well known in the art. These help pages may, for example, give the student information about the buttons on the screen, troubleshooting tips, and/or the opportunity to contact the educator provider.
LOGOUT button 70, activatable throughout the display of the page, if activated by the student, allows the student to interrupt the current course by logging out. If the student logs out, educator provider systems 22 keeps track of the location in the lesson at which the student logged out. Later, the student may resume a partially completed lesson by logging in as described above in association with
Another button, Replay Audio button 76, is present on each of the screens shown in
Each lesson page/screen (presentation) of the screens of
As is illustrated by
The present invention also requires that the content of at least one lesson page/screen has associated therewith at least one audio file. The audio file(s) is (are) used to control the pace and rate of advancement of the presentation of the lesson pages having audio associated therewith, and, subsequently, of the entire lesson. A student will not be able to logout using LOGOUT button 70 or to advance to the next screen/page using right arrow button 74 until the at least one audio file for that screen/page has completed playing at student system 30. This “playing” of the audio file(s) is achieved using the MACROMEDIA SHOCKWAVEŽ plug-in previously described in connection with this embodiment of the invention.
It will be appreciated by those of skill in the art that not every lesson page/screen need have an audio file. However, it is the audio files present which control the pace and rate of a document through the lesson.
The audio file(s) for a screen may be tied to content presented on content screen area 78. In the embodiment of
At any time during the display of any of the screens of
It will be appreciated by those of skill in the art that the use of an audio file for a screen in this manner helps to ensure that the student has taken the requisite time in taking the course. It will also be appreciated that the audio file(s) associated with any screen need not be a reading of text displayed on that screen. If a content element is a video with sound, then the sound of the video may comprise the audio file for that screen. Alternatively, the content may comprise audio apart from a particular content element on the screen. The audio file(s) do not have to be a reading. Music, sound effects, and any other combination of auditory tones are considered to be within the scope of the invention.
It will also be appreciated that time restrictions other than those associated with the time to play the audio files maybe employed with the system and method of the present invention. For example, the student may be required to advance, seek help, or logout within a prescribed period of time after completion of the playing of the audio file(s) associated with a page of the lesson.
Referring now to
Referring now to
It will be appreciated by those of skill in the art that if test presentations, such as that of
Referring now to
Certificate of completion 150 specifies the name of the educator provider, in this case, Professional Training and Consulting, Inc. The name of the student, Doreen J. Gridley, is also displayed. In certificate 150, seal 152 and signature 154 are also displayed. The student may print certificate 150 to printer 44 of student system 30 by activating Print Certificate button 156. The student may also store certificate 150 by invoking save screen mechanisms made available on the browser of student system 30.
It may be desirable to send the student an official certificate as well. Such could be performed by the educator provider, and or the education authority by regular mail, facsimile, etc.
System 20 also permits for a completion record and/or an electronic version of the certificate of completion to be sent by educator provider system 22 to the applicable education authority system 32. A sample completion record may be composed of the following information:
The exact content of the completion record is likely to be determined by the education authority and the format of the content record must be legible by education authority system 32, either directly or by access through an interface, for example.
In one embodiment, the completion record includes a course instance identifier assigned by system 20. A course instance identifier is a unique alphanumeric representation used to authenticate the completion record, and any certificate generated. The course instance identifier can be used to validate the completion record at education authority system 22 if a schema for the course instance identifier is recognized by education authority system 22. In this manner, it is difficult for a hacker to send a valid completion record to education authority system 22.
It will be appreciated by those of skill in the art that the electronic certificate of completion available to the student allows the student to obtain official acknowledgement of successful completion in an expeditious manner. Provisions of a completion record and/or certificate of completion to education authority system 32 informs the applicable education authority of the student's success so that official recognition by the education authority is possible immediately following completion of the course.
It will also be appreciated that other mechanisms may be implemented to insure successful completion before a completion record or certificate is generated by the system of the present invention. For example, testing can be used to insure comprehension of presented material. Also, the student may only be permitted a specified number of attempts to get a sufficient number of correct answers before deemed to have failed the course. The system may also only permit a specified number of interruptions/restarts before deeming that the student has failed the lesson.
In another embodiment of the present invention, video controlling mechanisms akin to the audio controlling mechanisms described above are used to control the pace and advancement of the lesson. In this embodiment, at least one presentation of the lesson includes at least one video file. Each student system 24, 26, 28, and 30 of
It will be appreciated by those of skill in the art that the pace of the lesson and advancement of presentations may be controlled by audio controlling, video controlling, or any combination thereof. At least one audio file and/or at least one video file must be present for control of presentation by the audio controlling means and/or video controlling means of system 20.
It will be further appreciated by those of skill in the art that the online education system and method of the present invention offers the advantages of “distance learning”, as is well known in the art. In addition, however, the present invention, by use of the audio and/or video controlling mechanism of the present invention, the system provides a means by which the student is required to “attend” the lesson for a specified period of time. In particular, the student must “attend” the class for a time at least equal to the time required to play the audio file(s) and/or video file(s) associated with the lesson. Further, the ability of the educator provider system to generate a lesson completion record and transmit the same to the student system and/or to the education authority system, provides immediate feedback and acknowledgement to the student and/or education authority. Such acknowledgement may be critical if the student completes the lesson at a time near the deadline imposed by the education authority or regulating authority.
In addition to the audio and video controlling and lesson completion features, the present invention also provides a vehicle by which the student can interrupt, or leave, a lesson, and return to the point of interruption in the future. This feature is accomplished by storing the interruption point at the educator provider system. Further, the educator provider system keeps track of the answers made to any tests given during the lesson. Not only are the test results necessary to ensure “successful” completion (if testing is required by the education authority), but the test results can also be analyzed to ascertain whether the student is paying attention to the lesson or merely making guesses. If the student is only making guesses, the student and/or education authority can be so notified and/or the student can be considered to have failed the lesson.
It will also be appreciated that, while the example of a course for a childcare provider or preschool educator is presented herein, the method and system of the present invention is not limited to such an application. The method and system of the present invention can be utilized for education of any type from any type of educational institutional. In addition to the other examples already discussed herein, the method and system of the present invention may be used by a company to train its employees or any subject, by a manufacturer to train its sales representatives, or by an automobile manufacturer to train dealers' service persons, for example.
The system and method of the present invention provides the educator with confidence in the integrity of the online lesson. Time requirements is guaranteed and satisfactory completion in all respects are measured by the present invention. Thus, by use of the system and method of the present invention, the educator need not be limited to no-credit or audit classes in an online environment. Instead, an educator can make available all of its initial (pre-service) and continuing (in-service) courses online to achieve the many benefits associated with distance learning.
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|U.S. Classification||434/350, 434/362, 434/307.00R|
|Apr 10, 2001||AS||Assignment|
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